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Review: Think Tank Sling-O-Matic 20 Camera Bag

by Travis Lawton on 09/14/2012

Here at The Phoblographer, we are no strangers to Think Tank camera bags. Recently, I was given the opportunity to try out Think Tank’s sling-bag series of bags. As I had several weddings coming up, I decided to give it a run and really put it through some real-world testing. Now that everyone has said their “I Do’s”, how did the Sling-O-Matic hold up? Click past the break to find out.

Editor’s Note: This is a guest blog posting by Travis Lawton. You can find more of his work on his website at Travis Lawton Photography as well as his blog at The Lawtographer.

Think Tank’s sling-bag series bags come in three different sizes, the Sling-O-Matic 10, 20, and 30. When requesting which one I would like to try, I chose to go with the middle one, the Sling-O-Matic 20. I wanted a bag that would hopefully work perfectly for weddings. It needed to have enough room to hold all my necessary gear yet small enough to wear the whole time while not getting in the way.

Although I’d heard many things about Think Tank bags, I’d never actually used one personally. And since most of what I’d heard was positive regarding their bags, I was really looking forward to getting my hands on one.

Design

Material Padded nylon
Type of Closure Zippers
Exterior Dimensions 11.0 x 16.5 x 6.0″ (27.9 x 41.9 x 15.2 cm)
Interior Dimensions 10.25 x 15.5 x 5.5″ (26.0 x 39.4 x 14.0 cm)
Bag flexibility allows expansion to carry some pro size DSLR bodies with a lens attached inside the main compartment
Tripod Holder Yes
Waist Belt Waist strap
Carrying/Transport Options Fully padded shoulder strap
Grab handles on three sides
Chest strap
Weight 2.5 – 3.4 (1.1 – 1.5 kg)

The Sling-O-Matic 20 comes with option chest and waist straps, rain cover, and many different Velcro inserts. Almost too many inserts, around 12 of various sizes yielding virtually an endless amount of configurations. I believe this is normal for Think Tank bags but I’m not really a fan of the type of included rain cover, simply because it’s a completely separate piece that you need to remember to pack. I much rather prefer the one that are built into the bags and just tucked away in some pocket when not in use.

After the bag arrived and I took it out of the packaging, it was immediately clear the craftsmanship that goes into their bags. Metal clasps in places that might be affected by extended wear, heavy-duty zippers all around, and even though it is made of fabric-like material, the whole bag has certain rigidness to it. Instantly upon handling the bag, you can tell it will take a beating with no problem.

Although the official wording could be a little fuzzy (“premium grade” ballistics nylon fabric), you can tell they do use the best material possible. All the way down to the zippers. I don’t know if you’ve ever had a camera bag zipper fail on you, but I have. Think Tank used YKK RC Fuse zippers on the Sling-O-Matic bags. I know it sounds silly devoting so much attention to a little ol’ zipper but when you pack the bag so full that all you can think of is your over-stuffed old school gym bag’s zipper popping open after wrenching on it with all you might, you’ll be happy knowing these zippers will handle the stress.

In Use

The bag went with me to several photo shoots and three weddings and unsurprisingly held up like a champ. This bag is touted as being able to carry a 70-200 f2.8 attached to a DSLR with the lens hood in position along with 4-6 more lenses and accessories. For the most part this was true although for my particular wedding gear, it didn’t work perfectly. Mainly because I use a battery grip on my 5DmkII and with my 70-200 f2.8 attached along with my 50mm, 85mm, 100mm, 24-70mm, 17-40mm, two flashes, triggers, and Expodisc, it didn’t fit everything. I will say though that by leaving out a couple of those lenses for a normal photo shoot, this bag was awesome.

When I first received the bag, I didn’t know what to thing about the very rectangle design, but this proves very useful in the field. There really is no “front” to the bag so you can set it down on any of it’s sides knowing full well it is padding your gear properly. And since you access the gear from the side, I would just prop the bag so I could leave the flap open for easy access to my gear while stationary (IE during the ceremony).

Any the other thing the Sling-O-Matic’s are touting as having, “Industry first sling bag that can be easily switched back and forth to either shoulder”. The shoulder strap itself is on rails on the top and bottom and within 3 seconds you can switch the bag to wear on your other shoulder, taking strain off of a single shoulder. This was very nice after wearing the bag for house upon hours at a time. Think Tank, my shoulders thank you.

5 seconds later

Conclusion

For most shooting scenarios, the ThinkTank Sling-O-Matic 20 Sling Camera Bag is a perfect size while letting you carry the right amount of gear with a perfect balance of comfort. Although wedding photographers with a bunch of gear might find it just a tad too small. Considering build quality, available space and configuration, and design features (shoulder switching), this will be a purchase that you won’t soon regret. Think Tank, my shoulders thank you.

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